If you just so happen to wear Greek letters on Dartmouth’s campus, you better watch your back. The gig is up for the Zeta Psi fraternity house after Dartmouth college officials announced on Friday they would take the liberty of closing its doors — forever.
It?s long been a pastime in the Zeta Psi fraternity house to publish an uncouth and vulgar newsletter meant for their naughty and yes, sophomoric pleasure. Intended solely for brothers, and written by brothers, the newsletter humorously exploits their sexual conquests and escapades with the opposite sex, their twisted locker-room humor, drinking and well, girls.
According to Zeta Psi President, Gene Boyle ’02, “brothers are instructed to destroy the papers after reading them and not to distribute them outside the house.” But to their surprise, more eyes these past few weeks, than ever were intended, have seen their in-house newsletter, and it has caused quite an uproar. It all unraveled with a garbage can. Four students fished a ripped-up copy of “The Zetemouth” that was covered in vomit and beer in a garbage can behind the house. They pieced the tattered copy together and delivered this edition to the “enemy” — the Dean of Residential Life. It was subsequently published in the student newspaper.
Walk on Dartmouth’s campus to take in the reaction and one would think the Zeta Psi fraternity brothers committed an act beyond the pale. One so vicious in its nature it sparked an actual campus riot where an angry woman kicked in the fraternity house door while a school administrator looked on. Their “crime” fits the above description only if you believe in the primacy of feelings over thought.
If you err on the side of rationality, the Zeta Psi brothers are guilty of nothing more than a juvenile sense of humor. The worst part was their use of actual names of women on Dartmouth’s campus — visitors to the fraternity house. For the women named, the humiliation and embarrassment is understandable, even though Doyle contends, “the newsletters were humor, satire and parody.” Despite his defense, what’s done is done and these days the Zeta Psi house is paying a hefty price for their crude humor that was meant for brother’s eyes only.
What is the appropriate punishment when feelings get hurt? Parents and second grade teachers grapple with this question on a daily basis. No doubt, the girls named in these newsletters must be red as beets. They likely feel betrayed and are boiling with rage. Sure, sex abounds on campuses these days, but college women would do well to remember that, rightly or wrongly, reputations are established “overnight.”
It seems evident that this is a simple case of exalted sore feelings. Sticks and stones may break my bones and because of that we’ll ruin your fraternity? This incident certainly deserves a punishment, but one guided by reason, not rage. Should anyone who’s ever had their feelings hurt receive financial restitution? Judging by the official’s reaction at Dartmouth, we’re not far from that.
There’s no telling what I might do if my name appeared in the Zeta Psi “sex papers” — as they have been dubbed — for an act I consensually participated in or as part of a parody. Lock myself in my dorm room? You bet. Change my name? It’s a definite possibility. Seek the fraternity’s demise because I was the butt of their boorish jokes? I think at that point in time reason would set in. I?d pick up my pride and avoid fraternity row indefinitely.
Makes one wonder, what’s next, tape-recording the lacrosse team’s lockeroom banter? Regardless of one’s opinion about fraternities in general, feelings should never have a place at the judgment table and reign above common sense and logic. Being thrown off campus isn’t the worst thing that could happen to the Zeta Psi house. They could be forced to endure mandatory sensitivity training.
Kate Kennedy is the Campus Projects Manager for the Independent Women’s Forum and the Associate Editor of the campus website SheThinks.org.